The University of Oregon Women’s Basketball Team capped a great season with an appearance in the WNIT Final Four, to the delight of fans and coaches. As the nation’s top three-point shooting women’s basketball team, the UO women’s basketball team won its home games in the postseason and extended their season to more than 20 wins.
Despite a season-ending ACL injury to Duck double-double star Jillian Alleyne in practice in the regular season, the team rallied and enjoyed a successful showing in the tournament.
Assistant Coach Nicole Powell, a former WNBA player, coaches and mentors the young women on the team. She encourages her players to enjoy the challenges and the competitiveness at the college level. Powell said the team had to adjust with the loss of Alleyne, but they have adjusted to playing without her. Alleyne attended every game, cheering the team on crutches after her recent surgery to repair her ACL.
Alleyne was just the second UO two-time All-American in the program’s history. She was the Pac 12’s all-time rebounding leader, with 1,712 rebounds and was No. 3 in the nation this season with 23 double-doubles.
Oregon’s team will graduate six seniors this year, and Powell explained she has high expectations for the incoming class. Replacing the leadership the seniors, such as what Alleyne has provided, will also be a challenge for the new freshmen. Powell said it will be a bit of a learning curve for the new freshmen coming in, but it will be a fun challenge for them.
Powell said the new facilities for the women’s basketball team at UO’s Matthew Knight Arena have been a great asset for recruiting. The women’s basketball team has a team meeting room with whiteboards and big screen TV for meetings before games where they strategize and discuss the opposing team. Powell said the team focuses on the game at hand and doesn’t look too far down the road to the next team they play.
Powell said her favorite basketball star as she was growing up was MJ (Michael Jordan). She also sees herself as an example to the UO women basketball players, since she played in the WNBA. Powell was the third overall pick in the 2004 WNBA Draft by the Charlotte Sting team. When she played for the Sacramento Monarchs they won a WNBA Championship in 2005, and she was the WNBA’s Most Improved Player that year. In 2005, she led the WNBA in three-point shots with 66. In 2009, Powell was a WNBA All-Star. Like Powell, Lady Ducks star Alleyne is expected to go into the WNBA.
For Duck women basketball fans who see the program rebuilding under Coach Kelly Graves and his staff, the future is bright. This year, the Lady Ducks team exceeded Coach Graves’ expectations by finishing with 24 wins, one win away from the program record of 25 set in 1980-81 and tied again in 1998-99.
While fans will miss seniors Liz Brenner, Lexi Petersen, Kat Cooper, Jordan Loera, Katie Gruys and Alleyne, a new nationally-ranked freshman class next year and eight returning players will excite their fans again next year.
Top Photo Courtesy of UO Athletics